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PHOTOS: Neighbors in the Fan socialize at a safe distance during weekly ‘#PorchSolidarity Parties’

Neighbors in the Fan have found a creative way to socialize during this time of social distancing, and do it from the comfort – and safe distance – of their own porches. Reader Rachel Scott Everett and her husband Brian Gibson organize regular porch gatherings to catch up with neighbors over drinks, music, and conversation.

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Neighbors in the Fan have found a creative way to socialize during this time of social distancing, and do it from the comfort – and safe distance – of their own porches. Reader Rachel Scott Everett and her husband Brian Gibson organize regular porch gatherings to catch up with neighbors over drinks, music, and conversation.

“While the photos may appear fun and carefree, all of us are currently facing different challenges regarding health, family, loss of work, financial strain, etc.,” Rachel said in an email to RVAHub. “This time offers everyone an hour to come out on their respective porches (or stoop or front yard) and (re)connect in solidarity – possibly with neighbors they may not have seen or met before.”

She says it’s an easy and fun way to “keep our spirits up.”

We hope these photos brighten your day as much as they did ours.

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Government

United Way offering free virtual tax preparation service ahead of July 15th federal tax filing deadline

Virginia households earning under $66,000 are eligible for United Way’s free virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

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With the federal tax-filing deadline extended to July 15, and Virginians receiving an extension for state returns, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg is offering free virtual tax preparation services to households with incomes below $66,000.

Traditionally, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is held at 16 tax sites across the region, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit has shifted its focus to assisting taxpayers virtually until the tax sites can safely be reopened.

United Way partnered with Code for America to bring GetYourRefund to the region, allowing its local team of IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers to virtually assist taxpayers with completing and electronically filing both federal and state returns. To utilize the program, participants need just a smartphone with a camera or a computer with access to a scanner.

The program also encourages people to think about ways to save, implement financial best practices, and make plans for achieving financial independence. And for those with low to moderate-income, the service helps eligible taxpayers take advantage of potential tax savings through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

“For many around the region, the last few months have been difficult to navigate, but we’re pleased to be able to ease some of the anxiety and stress that those who haven’t filed yet might be feeling,” said James Taylor, president & CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “We knew a shift to virtual preparation was important because this service has made a tangible difference for local families over the past 10 years, particularly for those who have taken advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

In 2019, local United Way volunteers helped secure more than $3 million in tax refunds for 3,667 households in our area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $838,300 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $22,900.

Find more information here.

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Downtown

New report finds Virginia Capital Trail generated $8.9 million in local economic activity last year

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

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The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation recently released an economic impact report by the University of Richmond in collaboration with the Institute for Service Research, the findings were significant.

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

The full economic impact report can be found here.

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Food & Drink

No Kid Hungry Virginia offers families access to free meals for kids this summer via text message

The summer months are already one of the hungriest times of year for many children. The need will be even greater this summer with more than 10% of Virginians facing unemployment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Free meal programs for children will continue to be available across Virginia during the summer. No Kid Hungry Virginia encourages families to text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to find free summer food sites organized by school districts and community organizations.

Meal sites are offering a variety of distribution models to help safely connect students with meals and promote social distancing, including “Grab and Go” service and food delivery along bus routes while passing out multiple days’ worth of meals at one-time.

The summer months are already one of the hungriest times of year for many children. The need will be even greater this summer with more than 10% of Virginians facing unemployment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent estimates show that as many as 1 in 4 children could experience food insecurity in the aftermath of this crisis.

“A big challenge is making sure families know how to find resources,” said Sarah Steely, No Kid Hungry Virginia Associate Director. “Please share the texting number with family and friends and on social networks, and check with your local school division for the most detailed information. We need to make everyone is aware of free meal resources in their communities.”

The Summer Meals program is funded by the USDA and operated by school districts and local organizations. Schools have been utilizing the Summer Meals program to operate emergency meal sites throughout the pandemic. Families can text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 and type in a zip code to find nearby summer meal sites, along with operating days and times. No application or registration is required at sites.

Summer hunger can have a long-term impact on a child’s health, ability to learn, and general well-being. No Kid Hungry Virginia is focused on providing funding and strategic assistance to schools and local organizations implementing summer meal programs to help them reach more kids during the pandemic.

Visit va.nokidhungry.org for more information about No Kid Hungry Virginia’s work.

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